Audi Q3 review
The Audi Q3 is the smallest off-roader in the Q family, and its rivals include the Mercedes GLA and Range Rover Evoque
A smaller version of the Audi Q5, the Q3 uses the previous-generation Audi A3 as its base and now comes complete with a fresh-looking facelift which focuses on a restyled nose, cleaned-up rear end and added equipment.
Three trim levels feature – SE, S line and S line Plus – and all are well-equipped. Audi offers a plethora of optional kit and customers’ Q3s can be further personalised through Audi’s Exclusive programme – both can prove rather costly, however.
All engines have been improved for greater fuel efficiency (of up to 13.5 per cent) and to be kinder to the environment. There are two petrols: a two-wheel drive 148bhp 1.4-litre with cylinder-on-demand technology and an all-wheel drive 178bhp 2.0-litre. Meanwhile, forming the diesel line-up is a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI with either two- or four-wheel drive and a high-powered 182bhp version.
All engines come with the choice of a six-speed manual or Audi’s seven-speed S tronic gearbox (the 1.4-petrol has a six-speed S tronic ’box, though) - apart from the high-performance RS Q3 model, which only comes with the auto option. Speaking of which, the hot RS has a 28bhp upgrade and now packs 335bhp.
With the latest facelift, Audi hopes to continue you the Q3’s current success – the firm has sold 400,000 units globally since its launch in 2011.
Our choice: Q3 SE 2.0 TDI (177) quattro S tronic
Given the success of the larger Audi Q5 and Q7, it’s no surprise the smaller Q3 borrows many of their styling cues. But the 2014 facelift brought in Audi’s new ‘3D effect Singleframe’ grille and the Q3 is first SUV in the line-up to use it.
In contrast to the outgoing model, the new Q3 has body-coloured plastic panels rather than grey-coloured wheelarches and sills. Overall it makes for a sportier look, while at the rear, LED taillights are very modern. S line models also get ‘scrolling indicators’ – the orange indicator sweeps from inside to the outside of the lamp cluster giving a distinctive look.
Being an Audi, the Q3 has a first-rate interior, with lots of soft-touch plastic covering the dashboard, and the stereo controls get a knurled metal finish.
Audi’s MMI integrated entertainment system is also very easy to use and generally speaking, the Audi Q3 is very well equipped. ‘Entry’ SE trim cars come with start/stop technology, 17-inch alloys, climate control, automatic wipers and lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6.5-inch display screen as standard.
If you opt for the more sport orientated Audi Q3 S line model, you also get 18-inch alloys, a suspension that’s 20mm lower, front sports seats embossed with Audi’s S line logo, aluminum interior inlays, power tailgate, scrolling indicators, xenon headlights and sports front and rear bumpers. The S line Plus trim Audi Q3 gets 19-inch wheels, Alcantara S line embossed seats, privacy glass and cruise control.
There are some quirks with the interior of the Audi Q3, though. The high-set driving position gives you a good view of the road and the sports seats are comfortable. The bus-like angle of the steering wheel also feels odd and the cabin’s design is showing its age – it’s in stark contrast to the minimalist Audi A3’s dashboard for instance.
The RS Q3 gets the ubiquitous honeycomb grille found on all Audi RS models, and other trimmings to let everyone else know you’re driving the most powerful model in the Q3 range.
Standard (non-RS) Audi Q3 models are available with either 1.4-litre or 2.0-litre engines. Our choice of powerplant is either the 182bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel unit (there is a less powerful 148bhp version) as it offers the best combination of performance and fuel efficiency in the Q3 range thanks to its 51.4mpg combined economy and 7.9s 0-62mph time (when the S tronic automatic ’box is fitted). CO2 emissions are also quite low at 143g/km.
The 1.4 TFSI engine with cylinder-on-demand technology is a new addition to the line-up and it's a really smooth and powerful unit. It also boasts fuel economy and CO2 emissions that are really similar to the diesel variants (47.9mpg, 136g/km). Plus, because petrol cars are liable for less company car tax, it's a good choice for company car buyers.
Thanks to its strong grip and decent body control, the car-like Audi Q3 feels agile and composed. Better still, its combination of compact size, excellent visibility and well-weighted controls helps inspire confidence when threading it down twisty back roads and crowded city streets.
The standard Drive Select system allows the driver to adjust the steering weight and throttle response - it’s best left in its normal mode, as it makes the steering feel artificially heavy in Sport.
However, this sharp handling comes at a price: like other compact SUVs, the Audi Q3 suffers from a firm and fidgety low-speed ride. We’d recommend forking out for the adaptive dampers, which deliver a more supple ride.
Both gearboxes found in the Audi Q3, the twin-clutch S tronic automatic and the standard six-speed manual, are excellent.
When you put your foot down in the Audi RS Q3, the turbo gives a loud whoosh and the exhaust a race inspired exhaust note. With 335bhp shared across all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro system, the RS Q3 can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
Audi is well known for building high-quality products and the Q3 doesn't feel like an exception to that rule, despite it being one of the older models in the Audi line-up. Audi finished 12th in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction, while the Q3 itself finished 17th in our 150 carlist.
The Q3 uses plenty of solid materials and feels like it is built to last. It also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum.
Despite its age, the Audi A3 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, as well as 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, the Audi Q3 should prove to be very safe as well. Six airbags and electronic stability control come as standard and there's lots of safety equipment on the options list.
This includes everything from a Speed Limit Display, to Active Lane Assist, which helps to maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane. Further up the range, S line models feature Xenon headlamps as standard.
While it may look identical to the Audi Q5, the Q3 is around 250mm shorter, 70mm narrower and 65mm lower, so it’s closer to the Volkswagen Golf in-terms of practicality. At 420-litres, the boot of the Q3 is the same size as found on the BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque.
One criticism leveled at the Audi Q3 could be that while the boot space expands to 1,325 litres, the back seats don’t fold fully flat so sliding things in-and-out is unnecessarily difficult. However, if you do need to carry longer items, Audi offers a folding front passenger seat as an option on the Q3.
In terms of passenger comfort, adults should still be comfortable, while the high roofline and large side windows help the Q3’s cabin feel brighter and airy. It also features lots of practical storage space, including large cup-holders and wide door bins.
The most economically viable Audi Q3 is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp. When mated with a manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive, this Q3 will return a combined cycle of 61.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2.
If you opt for the quattro four-wheel-drive system with this engine, this increases emissions to 131g/km and the combined cycle mpg figure comes to 56.5. Apart from the RS Q3, the 2.0 TFSI with quattro four-wheel is the most powerful Q3 in the range, but it has a comparatively poorer combined economy of 42.8mpg and 152g/km. Predictably, the quick RS Q3 has worse fuel economy with a combined cycle of 32.8mpg and 203g/km of CO2.
The 1.4 TFSI COD (cylinder-on-demand) is a good compromise, boasting 47.9mpg and 136g/km.
Fortunately, Audis tend to hold their value well, so expect the Q3 to have good residuals and not depreciate as much as some of its rivals.